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Discussion of 2018 gathering

Photos of insects and people from the 2015 gathering in Wisconsin, July 10-12

Photos of insects and people from the 2014 gathering in Virginia, June 4-7.

Photos of insects and people from the 2013 gathering in Arizona, July 25-28

Photos of insects and people from the 2012 gathering in Alabama

Photos of insects and people from the 2011 gathering in Iowa

Photos from the 2010 Workshop in Grinnell, Iowa

Photos from the 2009 gathering in Washington

How I take my “high” magnification images

My favorite close up lens for the Canon S3IS and S5IS is the Raynox DCR-250 which in my opinion has relatively good optical qualities for its price (~$ 40.-). The majority of my pictures of life critters were taken handheld using this lens. Most of the times I use f8 and the onboard flash with diffuser:

The distance from the front of the lens to the subject is ~10-11cm. To demonstrate the field size I photographed a sheet of “millimeter paper” (printed with my inkjet printer) where each small square is 1 square mm. The field size at 6mm focal distance shows some pin cushion distortion:

Field size at full zoom =72mm focal distance:

A 100% crop shows considerable chromatic aberration:

As an aside I noticed blotches in the image taken at 6mm focal distance. Thus, I cleaned the lens and took the picture again, with the same result. However, when using the unsharp mask in Photoshop Elements in the 100% crop window these blotches did not show up, no matter where I moved the rectangle pointer, indicating that this is some kind of artifact that I cannot explain:

Unfortunately, the rectangle pointer did not show up in the screen capture but it was somewhere in the area circled in red.

For high magnifications I use the Raynox MSN-202 lens which costs ~$60.-. This lens shows prominent pin cushion distortion at low zoom settings. Also chromatic aberration is quite noticeable, in some stacked images. Because of the shallow depth of field I use this lens only with a tripod mounted camera and stack images whenever possible. The distance from the front of the lens to the subject is 5cm. Field size at 6mm focal distance:

and full zoom (72mm):
In the 100% crop the “grain” from the inkjet printer is very obvious:

The image of an ocular reticule with 1mm squares:

and a 100% crop:
of the same image are better examples.

I guess these pictures demonstrate the ~$900.- price difference between my lenses and the MPE65, although I have not had a chance to use this lens.

For stacking I use a focusing rail, the Velbon Super Mag Slider (~ $70.-), which moves the vertically mounted camera up and down, as well as forward and backwards when mounted upright, as well as sideways:

Working on my kitchen table near the window I use natural light with a home made reflector (Mylar mounted on a 12½ X 17½cm cardboard. Mylar = cleaned inside of a snack bag, like potato chips.) on the opposite site of the window. Using a small level I make sure that both, the camera and the table, are level. With the camera set to manual focus I take the first image with the part of the critter that is closest to the lens in focus, and than take subsequent images while moving the camera, via the focusing rail, closer and closer to the subject until everything is out of focus. For the DCR-250 I use larger and for the MSN-202 smaller increments between images. Since there is no cable/electronic release on the S3IS or S5IS I use the self timer set at 3 sec. delay. Without the self timer there is camera shake even with my sturdy tripod. For stacking I use the freeware CombineZ5.

My setup at the kitchen table.
I purchased my close up lenses from Lensmate. Their website is quite informative.

All my stacked images have 8-digit identifiers.
Like this eye arrangement 06210625. This translates into a stack of 5 images stacked, namely images 0621 to 0625.

Another example:

Comments and suggestions for improvement are welcome.

reversed lenses etc.
Herre are my notes on macro setups
My 40 year old 20 mm Nikon is corrected for reverse mounting - amazingly sharp. Not being autofocus or autodiaphragm, it should be really cheap 2nd hand if you can find one.

Thanks, Marie
...upon seeing your mention of S5IS - I went ahead and ordered a Raynox DCR-250. Can't wait to see what it will do for shots of tiny instars and eggs.

Great info!
Very nice description of your setup. Thanks for sharing! I’m always interested to see how other people put capture their images. You obviously put a lot of thought into putting it together.

I also shoot with a S5IS, and had always wondered about the Raynox lens. I use an old reversed 50mm SLR lens, which at 72mm on the S5 gives about a 5mm FoV, slightly larger than your MSN-202.

And I like your focus rail. I’ve never tried one, but now that I see your setup, I’ve got an idea on how to use one to solve a setup challenge I’ve been stuck on. If you ever want to try the Canon CHDK firmware hack to automate the focus steps in the camera, I’ve got an S5 script that I’ll be glad to share.

Thanks again!

Thanks for the CHDK offer!
It has some nice features. A battery check would be useful and so is the remote control, but I would have to buy a laptop for that and the installation procedure intimidates me. What do you mostly use it for?

A little late, I looked at some of your pictures. The detail in your tiny beetles is amazing and don't need improvement. The optical quality of the reversed lens is likely superior to my lenses. I like your lighting. Would you mind sharing your lighting setup?

Thanks for your kind words. And to me, your head-on shot of the flea beetle, where I can count the eye facets, looks sharper than anything I get with my S5 setup.

Lighting seems more important to good shots than most of us want to admit. I think our S5s will drive the Canon MP-24 twin macro flash, which seems to be the favorite of many other BugGuiders. That flash is great for field work, but I don't do much of that and so I go with something a little cheaper. I use a fiber-optic light sources, with 2 or 4 fiber cables, terminating with focus lens (used on e-bay for ~$100-150), similar to Jeff Gruber's light setup seen here (looks like his don't have the focus lens terminations, which seem good for a little additional diffusion and focusing the beams). I wish I could get a ring light working - they seem more elegant than 4 cables curling all over the place. But to-date, I just haven't been able to get the ring lighting where it's needed.

Jeff uses paper velum for diffusion (cheap, from the craft store). I've been partial to an old frosted 35mm film can with the bottom cut off. Almost all my shots have had the beetles sitting inside one of these with the fiber lights pointed at it. And recently, someone turned me on to ping pong balls! But really any "frosted" medium has potential.

Thanks, and keep 'm coming!

Agree, lighting makes a big difference
It was the side lighting from the window that showed the facets in the above beetle. Another example are two images of the same moth taken with diffused flash
and light from the window
Thomas Shahan takes superb pictures using a single diffused flash mounted on a bracket and pointed at a ~45° angle from the front and above the subject:
I photograph mostly life critters and thus have to use flash. Since the light from the flash is so much larger than the critter it "wraps around". I really should get myself a bracket and try this. This is also a lot cheaper than the than the MP-24 twin flash. Ring lights/flashes supposedly produce even, shadowless lighting and are thus recommended for medical and industrial purposes. I have not tried it myself but I doubt that a ringlight would bring out the texture in beetles' elytra. Your pictures show this texture very well and in my opinion you don't have to change anything.

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